Now That’s What I Call Music 8 saw a third label come on board – Polygram. This heavy player could only enhance their track selection and overall remit. The double LP also included a two-sided colour insert which had a merchandise offer on one side [limited edition warm sweatshirts – a steal at £19.99] with a competition on the other. Three top prizes of 86 LPs, cassettes, music videos or CDs of your choice from a leading London record store [presumably Virgin]. In addition there were 100 runner-up prizes of a complete of the Now series to date. The questions were multiple choice and curiously prescient:
1) Which of these artists/groups have appeared on the most Now albums?
A – Madonna, B – Queen, C – Phil Collins.
2) Which of these artists.groups have never appeared on Now albums?
A – Madonna, B – Queen, C – Phil Collins.
3) Which animal used to appear on some earlier Now album sleeves?
A – Elephant, B – Cat, C – Pig.
Side 1 oozes with pop. Duran Duran’s Notorious gets top billing; another fine Nile Rodgers production. Suburbia was the Pet Shop Boys’ fourth top 20 hit and the single remix is a much improved take on the original album version. Run DMC and Aerosmith raise hell with Walk This Way while The Communards brought Harold Melvin’s Don’t Leave Me This Way to the top. Swing Out Sister [a Polygram act] were the new sophisticates on the block and Breakout was a well-chosen newie by Ashley Abram. The parent album It’s Better To Travel still sounds like an other-worldly lounge excursion. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark enter The Pacific Age with the thought-provoking (Forever) Live And Die while Steve Winwood and Genesis make strong cases for no-nonsense MOR with the uptempo Higher Love and the resigned In Too Deep.
Side 2 is where we come to dance. Codpiece pioneers Cameo and Word Up set us off. Grace Jones new single I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You) did not hit the mark with the public – #56 and three weeks in the top 75. It sounds better now. Also making their debut are the Appleby sisters – Mel and Kim. Showing Out is a SAW production and is marvellous. The quality slips a little with Jermaine Stewart’s We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, rises somewhat as Jaki Graham Steps Right Up before Janet Jackson’s show-stealing What Have You Done For Me Lately. Control was one the year’s key albums and two more singles Nasty and When I Think Of You had charted by the time Now 8 was released. The Human League’s stately and austere Human [infidelity rules ok?] brings the pace down before Boris Gardiner’s I Wanna Wake Up With You [the second of the compilation’s three #1s] sends us off to sleep.
Just like the previous volume, Peter Gabriel kicks off a side. His grandiose collaboration with Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up – remains one of So’s high points. You still have friends. The Housemartins re-recorded Think For A Minute and it is much improved. Madness put out a heartfelt swansong which I love: (Waiting For) The Ghost Train. Status Quo’s In The Army Now is harder to like while Huey Lewis thrives in mediocrity [Stuck With You]. Big Country’s One Great Thing comes across rather flat-footed but Billy Bragg’s Greetings To The New Brunette is marvellous and wholly unexpected. Sadly it only reached #58. How I love those evening classes.
Kim Wilde scarcely put a foot wrong in the 1980s; You Keep Me Hangin’ On actually improves on The Supremes’ version. Another step to immortality as it soars across the dancefloor. It Bites fly the flag for Cumbria with the simplistic Calling On The Heroes while its a villain-fest for Roy Wood, the Doctor and his Medics as they murder Abba’s Waterloo. Thankfully Debbie Harry redeems side 4 with the erotic French Kissing In The USA with Robert Palmer maintaining the steamy feeling with I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On. Paul Hardcastle provided Top Of The Pops with a fancy new theme – The Wizard. I bought the 7″ and 12″ on the same day. However I totally avoided the closing pair of jokers; Gwen Guthrie sinks to an all-time low with a awful version of (They Long To Be) Close To You with the inexplicably popular Every Loser Wins from Nick Berry proving that the crap will sometimes rise to the top.
Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Swing Out Sister – Breakout
Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On
Mel and Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)
Lest we forget
Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard
The release of Now 8 on CD was inevitable. The format was still a slowburner in the UK so it was a single disc featuring 17 tracks. To complicate matters it was competing for the yuppie dollar with the end of year compilation Now That’s What I Call Music ’86.
There’s a decent pop start with Notorious, Suburbia and Walk This Way replicating the vinyl’s running order. Word. And Word Up. Then the Grace Jones curveball gets chucked in before two more uptempo numbers from the dance side – Step Right Up and Showing Out steer the flight path before the smooth cruise of Swing Out Sister’s Breakout. Side 4’s first half then follows in running order – great / ok / awful / good before a trio from side 3 in a mixed-up sequence. I have to say that Don’t Give Up and (Waiting For) The Ghost Train have a good flow. The CD ends with the final pair from side 1, (Forever) Live And Die and In Too Deep. Nice way to finish but it’s significant that none of the three number ones feature on the CD version.
So what about the 15 tracks that didn’t make the CD?
As previously documented five of them appear on Now ’86.
Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way.
Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.
Boris Gardiner – I Wanna Wake Up With You.
Status Quo – In The Army Now.
Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms.
That leaves 10 stragglers.
They can be found on the following CD compilations*.
* NB – this is a guideline only and I cannot guarantee 100% accuracy.
** I haven’t come across The Housemartins, Big Country and Billy Bragg tracks yet I am sure that their own compilations will probably include them.
Steve Winwood – Higher Love. Now This Is Music 5: Volume 1
Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately? Now This Is Music 5: Volume 2
Human League – Human. Now This Is Music 5: Volume 1
Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On. Now This Is Music 5: Volume 1
Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard. Blitz 2.
Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You. Soul Girls.
Nick Berry – Ever Loser Wins. Great Romantic Hits Of The 70s and 80s box.
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now 8 has plenty of highs but there’s definitely a few missteps that in retrospect seem like very poor choices. On that basis I think that Now 7 has the edge while as a standalone single disc Now ’86 is an absolute belter. The video selection contained one track that would appear on Now 9 [Erasure – Sometimes] and four tunes that are exclusive to the VHS tape. Ultravox’s All Fall Down and The Damned’s Anything were new releases [there were enough punts so any more would have been too risky] but the Glass Tiger track was their sole top 30 hit. See the Formel Eins compilations for more discussion on them. Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Warriors Of The Wasteland could probably have slotted into Now 9. I’d also like to have seen some of the following:
The Smiths – Panic or Ask. Now 10th Anniversary 1986 features the former.
Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name. Underrated.
Depeche Mode – A Question Of Time. Great single mix.
Anita Dobson – Anyone Call Fall In Love. More Eastenders warbling.
Tina Turner – Typical Male. This 1986/1987 period of Tina’s seems to be slipping from history.
Amazulu – Montego Bay. Keep it lite.
Marti Webb and The Simon May Orchestra – Always There. Howards’ Way.
Queen – Who Wants To Live Forever. Eerie number. They played Slane Castle in 1986.